Posts Tagged ‘getting ready for Christmas’

Write a Review Wednesday: Christmas Delicious

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed A Porcupine in a Pine Tree. This week, with Christmas just days away, we’re reading Blue Apple Books Christmas Delicious, written by Lyn Loates and illustrated by Mark Jones. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Raisin and Rice are two mice who were once hungry and poor. But now living in the storeroom of the Zanzibar’s Deli they never want for food, enjoying lamb and ham and cheese and more. With Christmas approaching they decide to celebrate with a feast and set out gathering and brewing and baking. Christmas day arrives and Raisin and Rice dress in their finest ready to enjoy what they had prepared but something is missing. It’s not the goodies or decorations, it was their friends. They went out and invited all their old friends to join them and had the merriest Christmas ever.

Christmas and food go so well together; that’s what appealed to me first about this book, Christmas Delicious. Although I’m not a fan of mice living and eating in a deli my kids didn’t seem to mind. But then they think of mice as humanized characters and Raisin and Rice do share their wealth with their less fortunate friends. Written in rhyme, Christmas Delicious is a very lyrical read, almost coming out as a song. Mice aside, I do love the message of sharing with friends, that no matter how much you have you don’t get the same joy out of it unless you can share that joy with someone else. It’s a wonderful message for Christmas and all year-long.

The illustrations fill the pages with warm Christmas colours. My 3 kids loved the story of the animals enjoying Christmas together, especially Christmas that involves food.

You can add a copy of Christmas Delicious to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 18 – Tree Decorating for the Birds

I know I’ve said this many times but we really are fortunate to live beside a huge natural park right here in the middle of the city. And even greater, is the High Park Nature Center located in High Park. They offer great programs for kids, families and schools. They demystify nature and bring it closer to kids, the next generation to care for and respect our symbiotic relationship with one another.

In time for winter, the Nature Center ran their wonderful Tree Decorating for the Birds workshop so as part of our 25 Days of Christmas I took all 3 kids over to participate.

I’m always amazed how the program leaders remember my kids by their names. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone and I’m sure they see many kids but it’s a wonderful feeling for the kids and shows the involvement the staff takes with the kids involved with their programs.

When we arrived the room was set-up with 5 workstations on big tables. Each station covered a decoration you were to make for the trees in the park. But these were typical decorations, like paper chains or pipe cleaner candy canes. The purpose of these decorations were to give the animals of the park food for the cold winter that lays ahead of them.

The first station the kids visited had them making Garlands. Long pieces of thread were precut and knotted and a needle hung on the other end. Around the table were bowls filled with popcorn, cranberries, apple pieces, Cheerios and orange segments. We quickly discovered that Cheerios weren’t the best item to put on the chain first (they slipped right off the sting and needed something bigger on the end) and that popcorn is harder to string than you think. My 4-year old managed her needle pretty well on her own, carefully pushing it through the different items for her chain. After about 10 pieces she was ready to move on to the next station. My 6 and 8-year-old however  wanted to finish their chains right to the end of the rope.

Each child was given a plastic plate to place their crafts on as they moved from station to station. I took my 4-year old to the next station which was making Seed-Head Bouquets. She clipped a few seed heads and bunched them together. I held her bunch while she wrapped a piece of string around the stems. I tried to let her do the crafts as much as she was able. The idea was for the kids to make the decorations and although I could have done things faster or easier my kids were getting more enjoyment out of doing each thing on their own.

After the Seed Bouquet we moved on to Yuletide Logs. This was a messy one. My e-year old took at popsicle stick (it had to be the purple one) and worked on spreading lard all over a stick, just like painting it. Eventually she decided to copy some other kids and just rub the lard on her stick with her hands. Then she dropped her lard covered stick into a bowl of seeds and rolled and patted as many seeds as she could get to adhere to her stick. Surprisingly she kept herself pretty clean.

My two oldest were still at the garland making table. It seems they were competing with each other to see who could fill their string the quickest. Ah, nothing says family fun like a little competition.

The last activity was to make Pine Cone Bird Feeders. Similar to the Yule Logs, you had to cover a pine cone in lard and then stick seeds to it. Covering a pine cone in lard is a little trickier than covering a flat stick but my 4-year old managed.

After washing up we enjoyed some hot apple cider and cookies and then listened to the story Night Tree before heading out for our forest walk. I had never heard of the book Night Tree but it’s a delightful tale about decorating a tree in the woods for the animals, just like we were going to do.

On our walk we stopped to feed some of the birds in the forest. My 8-year old was fortunate enough to have a Nuthatch eating out of her hands 4 different times on our walk. We even had the chance to see a beautiful red cardinal. Some interesting things I learned:

  • Unlike many birds, Cardinals don’t eat things off the ground.
  • To warm up after a night’s sleep birds puff their feathers up to 3x their body size.
  • A woodpecker’s tongue is too big for its mouth. There is a spot in its head where it coils its tongue around when it’s not being used.

In the forest all the kids found spots to hang or place their decorations for the birds and then we headed home. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Christmas Books

I love the holidays, especially Christmas. Last week I talked about our Top 10 Christmas Albums we love to listen too. This week I’m thinking about books. We have a pretty big library of children’s books at home. There are so many great books out there but I have a real soft spot for seasonal books. We have 2 shelves on our children’s bookcase devoted to these types of books. This last month we’ve been enjoying a few classics and some new favourites. I thought with Christmas approaching I would share as part of Oh Amanada‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog, 10 of our Favourite Christmas stories, some which we’ve reviewed and others that are just part of our personal collection.

  1. Ten on the SledThis is a fun counting book, counting from 10 back to one, based on the rhyme Ten in the Bed. You can’t help but sing this story instead of reading it.
  2. The Great Reindeer Rebellion –  A fun tale about striking reindeer set to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  3. The Nativity Story – This large sturdy board book is great for even little hands, with simply, rhyming text and shiny, uncluttered images.
  4. Peter Claus and the Naughty List – This is a great story illustrating that behaviour isn’t black and white and that doing something that might be deemed bad doesn’t make you an awful person (or child in this case).
  5. Olive the Other Reindeer – I love the work of J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh and this tale about a dog named Olive who offers to help Santa pull his sleigh is a delight to read and look at.
  6. Dream Snow – Eric Carle is another staple in a child’s book library and Dream Snow is a fantastic Christmas treat. The story is sweet, the illustrations in Carle’s trademark mosaic style and the surprise at the end is delightful
  7. Little Tree – Based on e. e. cummings’ poem, this is a beautiful story about love and belonging with wonderful whimsical illustrations.
  8. Santa Claus and the Reindeer Chase – This is a great interactive book as kids move a small cut-out Santa through various slots and openings on each page, trying to catch-up with his reindeer in time for Christmas Eve.
  9. The Present – Technically it’s about a birthday present but the concept of anticipation and charity hold true for Christmas also. Plus I just love this story.
  10. Christmas with Rita and Whatsit – Follow the adventures of Rita and her dog Whatsit as they prepare for Christmas as only a child (and child-like dog) would. I love the simple line drawing illustrations with just a splash of orange and green throughout. https://cabadov.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/warw-christmas-with-rita-and-whatsit/

Of course this is just ten of our favourites. There are so many other great Christmas books for kids out there. What are some of your favourites?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 6 – Mini Me Christmas Trees

If you celebrate Christmas you probably have a Christmas tree in your house. We do. We have a few actually: a fake one upstairs in our family room, there’s the Elf tree on the second floor and our real tree, the main Christmas tree, in our living room.

We love Christmas trees so much that each of my three kids have their own mini tree; a mini me tree since they decorate their trees themselves with whatever they want. So for our 25 Days of Christmas activity for day 6 we dug out the trees and let the kids decorate them.

My 89-year old has a pink tree. It was originally a Dora tree with Dora branded ornaments. The ornaments have since disappeared but the very pink tree lives on. This year my daughter has gone very minimalist, just having lights on her tree and letting the pinkness shine out.

My 6-year old son has my old Christmas tree. I remember buying this tree when I celebrated my first Christmas at my first ad agency job. I still have all the original pieces, including the light string which is might actually be dangerous, and the original box with its Zellers $9 price tag. When I decided to leave the agency world and work from home, the tree came with me and my son inherited it.

Of course he’s added his own touches, decorating his tree with some of his favourite Hot Wheels cars.

My 4-year old has a sort of Charlie Brown Christmas tree, really skinny, but she liked the shiny pink and silver metallic branches. She thought about covering her tree with Polly Pocket dolls (we have a few of them) but when I told her that items on the tree stay on the tree, she changed her mind. Instead she opted for some mini Santas. Sometimes the Polly Pockets visit.

Every night while the kids are getting ready they plug their trees in and enjoy their creations. And on Christmas Eve they can actually sleep with their tree lights on all night so Santa can find his way to their room and leave a small gift under the tree; ideally something that will keep them busy for a few hours Christmas morning so I don’t have to actually get out of bed at 4:30 a.m.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Write a Review Wednesday: Ten on the Sled

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Snappy Builder Nativity. This week, keeping in the Christmas or at least the winter mood, we review Sterling Publishing’s Ten on the Sled (age 3+) by Kim Norman and illustrated by Liza Woodruff. I have to thank Derry at Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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One wintry night reindeer decides to go for a toboggan ride and soon nine other friends join in, all riding on the sled together. But as they twist and turn down the hill, one-by-one the friends fall off the sled until moose is racing a snowball of friends down the hill.

Ten on the Sled is best read, or in our case sung, to the tune of ten in the bed and the little one said, rollover, rollover. You’ll probably find, as I did when reading it to my kids, that you’ll catch yourself singing the book without realizing it. The story was fun and rhythmic to read for both myself and the kids. All 3 of my kids, including my 8-year old loved the story. My 4 and 6-year old loved the pictures of the friends falling off the sled. Each page they looked for the growing snowball of friends that rolled down the hill in the background. I must admit I didn’t notice this at first; my kids pointed it out to me. My 8-year old enjoying singing the rhyme along with me. I actually enjoyed the writing of Ten on the Sled more than the original rhyme because of the varied words; it didn’t just repeat the same words in each stanza.

As the sled got lighter with less friends, it also got faster and you could feel that looking at the illustrations. We read the story faster and faster too which made my kids laugh even more. Ten on the Sled was a quick story but we all enjoyed it so much we read, or rather, sang it two more times that night. This is a nice winter story but also a great counting book. The story goes from ten down to one and was a great exercise in remembering the numbers in reverse order.

You can add a copy of Ten on the Sled to your own personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Sterling Publishing. For other great book ideas for kids, take a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 3 – The Chocolateria

I love chocolate and really good hot chocolate. I could enjoy these all year round but there’s something about the impending holidays that makes that mug of hot chocolate magical.

For Day 3 of our 25 Days of Christmas I met the kids after school and we all walked over the new chocolate shop in our neighbourhood, The Chocolateria (they were written up in Toronto Life recently for their chocolate dipped potato chips. Yum!). They make delicious hot chocolate which was a nice treat after the cold, windy walk. I also let the kids choose one additional chocolate item to eat with their hot chocolate. This was easy for my 4 and 6-year old, they went straight for the chocolate dipped marshmallow snowmen. My 8-year old was harder to please and who could blame her with the choice. There’s different types of bark, turtles (really good, soft caramel turtles, not the type that stick to your teeth), dipped pretzels and pretzel sticks, dipped fruit, truffles and of course their wonderful dipped potato chips. She grabbed some bark and I grabbed some chocolate covered jujubes. We sat in the small seating area at the front of the store and watched people walking by while we enjoyed our sugar high. That sugar kept all of us going all the way home. Boy do I wish I had some chocolate dipped chips now.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Write a Review Wednesday: Snappy Build Nativity

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Counting on Snow. With the start of December and the Advent season we’re reading Silver Dolphin BooksSnappy Builder Nativity (age 3+) by Derek Mattews. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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In our house we celebrate Santa and Jesus during the Christmas season so a mix of both religious and non-religious stories are read this time of year. As you can probably guess from the title Snappy Builder Nativity, this hardcover book from Silver Dolphin Books is about the Christmas Story. Like most of the books in the Snappy series, the pages in the Snappy Builder Nativity are made from a reinforced cardboard making them durable for young readers to turn. The images fill the pages with strong colours and the story, though short, covers the main elements of the Christmas story in a fun rhyme. If you’re child is already familiar with the Christmas Story, they will enjoy participating in the story, telling what happens next. Snappy Build Nativity is also a great book to share with young kids who are just learning about the Christmas Story; the rhyme and illustrations help children to anticipate what comes next in the story.

Along with the actual story, the Snappy Builder Nativity also includes a 39 piece nativity scene you can build. The pieces are built from reinforced cardboard and use the same illustrations as found in the story. After reading the book or even while reading the story, kids can reenact the story with the nativity characters. My 8-year old built the nativity scene herself (it sits in her room) but younger kids will need some help putting it together. I love that all the main characters are all separate elements (the 3 kids are individual pieces versus being grouped together as one pieces), plus there are a number of barn animal pieces too. And each piece is printed double-sided so the characters can turn around. My daughter loved having the kings walk around and they could face either way. I also like how these detachable nativity pieces are included at the back of the book; it’s not even obvious they were attached and you can still enjoy the story. You will have to find a way to story these pieces when the Christmas season is over.

The Christmas Story is a central part of the celebrating Christmas and the Snappy Builder makes is accessible and fun for kids to enjoy and experience themselves. Other titles in the Snappy Builder series include: Snappy Builder Noah’s Ark, and Snappy Builder On the Farm,

To add a copy of Snappy Builder Nativity to your personal collection or to give as a gift, visit your local bookstore or visit Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday post.

Celebrating Christmas in 25 Days

December 1st is tomorrow! That means it’s time to start our advent calendars. In the past we’ve had all sorts of different advent calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas: chocolate, toys, magnetic, colouring, even a storybook that builds a nativity scene. This year, thanks to Andrea at Quiet Fish, we’re looking at our advent calendar a little differently. Instead of just counting the days down to Christmas we’re going to celebrate them as a family.

This year we’re participating in the blog meme 25 Days of Christmas. We’ve been working on this at home for a while now. Remember my Top Ten Tuesday post a few weeks ago? Well we’ve added to that list of things we want to do during the Christmas season and I’ve added them to our calendar.

Wait, the calendar. First we needed a calendar. At first I almost made the calendar images myself but they I thought since the idea behind 25 Days of Christmas was doing things as a family I changed my mind. Instead I gave up the design to my 3 kids. I found index cards that we could use and hang on the kitchen wall. I would write the activities on the back, in secret, so the kids would still be surprised as to what Christmas activity we were to do that day, but I had them write the numbers and design the front of the cards.

Turns out this was harder than I thought. Not on the kids; they loved colouring and drawing and using stickers. I had a hard time not letting my controlling personality take over. Like when my 6-year old son wrote the number on his card small and in the corner versus big and in the center, as I had envisioned. Of when my 3-year old daughter used big stickers from the library’s Summer Reading Club to decorate one of her cards, not very festive. I wanted to offer suggestions, make corrections, but I didn’t. I realized this advent calendar was for them too. And they had fun working on, no fighting no yelling, just 2 hours of co-operative creativity.

Now it sits on our wall, ready for the first day to be revealed tomorrow. As part of the 25 Days of Christmas I’ll try to post each day’s Christmas activity, though it may not be daily.

How are you enjoying the Christmas season with your family?

The Santa Claus Parade Favourites

Last Sunday we went to our local Santa Claus Parade, which just happens to be the biggest in the country. My husband and I have gone to the parade together almost 20-years (only the last 8-years have been with kids). It’s a different feeling seeing the parade with kids in tow. We sang Christmas songs, handed in letters to Santa, caught candy being tossed out by crazy clowns and enjoyed the somewhat commercialized floats.

When I go to the parade, the bands are my favourite, especially a band with bagpipes. Have I told you my deep down desire to learn to play the pipes? That’s a whole other post. For the kids, seeing the floats is their favourite. My kids enjoyed all the floats but it was obvious what their favourites were.

No surprise that my 3-year old went crazy for both the Tangled and Barbie A Fashion Fairytale floats. You may remember we had a chance to see the first Canadian screening of the Tangled move before it was released in theatres and the Barbie a Fashion Fairytale before it came out on DVD. You can imagine her excitement seeing her two favourite characters appearing before her, super-sized. She was thrilled beyond belief.

My son almost fell on the people in front of us he was so excited seeing the Lego float. My son loves Lego. Actually love isn’t nearly strong enough, more like obsessed. And it was a great float. Seeing the larger-than-life characters gave them a sense that they were indeed real, not just a toy. Of course after this float my son wanted to get home and watch the Lego movie The Adventures of Clutch Powers. I actually hope they bring out more Lego movies; even I enjoyed that film.

My oldest daughter was excited to see the Little Big Planet 2 float, though I didn’t get any photos of it. We’re a bit of a gaming family and that’s her game of choice. I liked seeing the Potato Heads. I missed them when I was at BlogHer in New York City but they found me here in Toronto not too long after my return.

But no parade would be complete without the jolly man himself, Santa. I love that both kids and adults alike, waved and wished Santa a Merry Christmas. And now that Santa has arrived, it’s now time for me to get ready for the holidays. Deck the halls and drink some eggnog, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la!

Top Ten Tuesday: Making it a Family Christmas

I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve participated in Oh Amanda‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog meme but the holiday season is fast approaching and if anything called for a list it’s the holidays. Yesterday I talked about my mixed feelings about Christmas. I love this holiday, it’s actually my favourite, but I find I get so wrapped up in other things that I really miss the holiday lead-up. The next thing I know Christmas Day is here and over before I’ve really had a chance to enjoy it.

This year I want it to be different. This year I want to ensure I enjoy every moment of this wonderful season, spend time doing festive things with my family. I think Quiet Fish‘s Andrea Tompkins might have just the solution to keep me focused. She’s starting up another year of 25 Days of Christmas. The idea is to create an advent type calendar for the 25 days leading up to and including Christmas. Each day will consist of an activity to do as a family and they need to be fun activities (getting the house ready and doing Christmas shopping don’t count). I thought this was a wonderful idea and I’m so stoked about participating.

I’ve already talked to my kids about what they would like to do together to celebrate Christmas. So for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post I’m listing 10 Christmas Activities to Enjoy as a Family:

  1. Pop some corn and have a Christmas movie marathon. From Elf to Nester the Long Eared Donkey and everything in between, we will set aside a day to just sit and watch Christmas movie after Christmas movie.
  2. Popcorn strings and paper chains. I’ve never made popcorn strings so this year we’re going to set some time aside to do just that. Hopefully we’ll get more popcorn on the string than in our mouths but I guess that’s half the fun. And my 3-year old will love making her little finger friendly paper chains.
  3. Fireplace and hot chocolate. We have a wood burning fireplace in the living room and I love it. Love the sound and smell of crackling wood. With a warm cup of hot chocolate in hand there’s nothing better than sitting around and just enjoying that feeling.
  4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas game. We have a huge game cupboard and one game only gets played during the holiday season, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas board games. Kids get to collect presents from Grinchy Santa and give them back to the Whos.
  5. Cookies to bake (and eat). I love baking for the holidays but usually I don’t have time or I end up doing at night after the kids have gone to bed just to get it done. But this year we’ll set aside some time after school to make and decorate cookies. And then of course there will have to be samples to try.
  6. Christmas Train. Not far from our house is a CP train line and the Christmas Train, traveling cross-country, passes through one night. The cars are all decked out in lights and when it stops ‘Santa’ appears singing some rockin’ tunes. We stumbled upon this last year and hope to continue the tradition this year.
  7. Snowflakes, candy canes and other crafts. The kids LOVE making crafts and the holiday season is perfect for this. Snowflakes are easy to make and gives them something to decorate their windows. Candy Cane crafts are easy to make too with coloured pipe cleaners. Basically sitting down and doing pictures and crafts and nothing else for an afternoon.
  8. Singing Christmas carols. We have a piano in our living room. Every time Christmas arrives I wish I could play it but that won’t stop us from singing Christmas carols. All of my kids love to sing and each morning at school they sing hymns and love it. Even without a piano we can still have fun singing some of our favourites (plus it will give us all good practice for carols at Christmas Eve mass).
  9. Neighbourhood lights. I love seeing the houses in our neighbourhood and other neighbourhoods putting up displays of lights and scenes for Christmas. We love to go for a walk around and sometimes even pile in the car and checkout other neighbourhoods.
  10. Pictures with Santa. We have a spot on our living room wall that consists of the kids and Santa over the years. I love seeing the kids at the different stages in their lives. And we usually go to different Santa’s every year, sometimes even out of the city or out of the country.

These are just a few of the things my kids want to do with the family to enjoy this Christmas season together. I’m sure we’ll be able to think of 15 other great ideas. And thanks to Andrea for the idea. This year is shaping up to be a Christmas season I will actually enjoy as it’s meant to be, spending time with my family, and for that I am grateful.

What’s your favourite Christmas activity to do as a family?